Ireland will be much better placed within the EU, rather than outside of it, according to IFA President Joe Healy.

“This was the overwhelming view expressed by delegates attending the recent Agricultural Science Association (ASA) Forum. And it’s an opinion that I also hold strongly myself.”

Healy was speaking on the eve of the celebrations that will be held today, marking the 60th anniversary of the EU’s creation.

“Ireland joined in 1973. And there is ample evidence to confirm that Irish agriculture has fared well in the intervening years. The Common Agricultural Policy has been the main driver in this regard.

“Yes, there have been challenges to overcome, including the imposition of milk quotas, set-aside and greening. But, generally speaking, the CAP has been a good news story for farmers in this country.

And the same can also be said for EU consumers. Back in 1962, when the CAP was founded, families spent 30% of their income on food. Today that figure has come down to 13%.

“EU consumers also have access to the safest food in the world, produced by farmers who are committed to meeting the highest-quality standards.”

Looking ahead, Healy believes that the CAP must be tweaked to meet the fast-changing needs of farm businesses.

“Brussels must deliver on its simplification agenda. The CAP must be adequately funded for the future. The UK’s departure from the EU will create a net annual deficit in the CAP budget of €3 billion.

“This shortfall can be made up in one of two ways; the remaining member states can put a bit more into the kitty or the UK can make a contribution as part of its divorce settlement with Brussels.”

Healy said that future CAP payments should be made available to farmers actively producing food and those producers actively protecting the environment.

“We also need a rural development programme that is fit-for-purpose,” he concluded.